Megan Gardner - aftermarketNews

2022 Honoree

Megan Gardner

Senior Director Sales and Marketing
Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association

How did you begin your career in the aftermarket?

It was a little bit of good timing and opportunity. I started my career in sports – I even have a master’s degree in sports management! I worked in professional sports on the sponsorship and marketing side for about 10 years before I took an opportunity with a software startup in the automotive space with OEMs. It was an exciting, high-pressure time. That was the position that changed me – I was an entirely different person when I left than when I entered. When the phone rang with the opportunity for the role at AASA, I said yes. It turned out to be a fantastic choice; the aftermarket is a fascinating industry and I’m so glad to be a part of it. We talk often about how the aftermarket keeps America’s 283 million cars running. If you really stop to think about the aftermarket’s impact in the daily lives of Americans – it’s remarkable. That’s something I want to be a part of.

What is your best advice to other women who want to excel in the automotive aftermarket? What is one thing the industry could do better or do differently to support women in the aftermarket?

There are so many best practices from our industry’s various DE&I committees that really make a big day-to-day difference for women. And there are notable examples of how these actions and policies work and how they positively affect the bottom line. It’s good business to have a diverse workforce- that’s indisputable. But now we need more organizations to make bold moves and put more women in top positions. Women, and all other underrepresented groups, need more opportunity. A healthy workforce benefits everyone; but more opportunity will create the change we want to see.

That’s my advice to women who want to excel in the automotive aftermarket – say yes to opportunity. I have a sign in my office that quotes Sheryl Sandberg, “If you are offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat, just get on.” I love that sentiment. We need to seek out the opportunity with the most growth potential and if you don’t see that opportunity yet, create it for yourself. And if you have an opportunity, share it; success is better when it’s shared.

How do you build up your confidence to prepare for challenging professional situations?

Confidence has always been a difficult thing for me to get and hold on to. It’s not as if getting a certain job or nailing a presentation just changed me instantly into a confident person. I think my confidence was built in a thousand ways over many years. Though things like finding success with work projects and councils, learning new industries and succeeding in them, gaining respect from people I admire, and taking risks that pay off. I know the biggest influence on my confidence is seeing my teams succeed and hearing from them that they felt supported and encouraged by me. In seeing their successes, I can see my contribution, and I understand that it’s valuable. That confidence is something I wear proudly and bring with me from situation to situation.

What do you believe are some of the most important skillsets to excel in a career in the aftermarket today?

These days you need an entire toolbox of skills to manage through day-to-day! We are in such an incredible time of turmoil and it’s remarkable to see how well our industry is navigating the changing climates. I can see a lot of parallels in how the aftermarket is responding and what we need, as individuals, to succeed in the aftermarket today. For example, the ability to embrace change and re-prioritize; and putting yourself in a position that you can seize opportunity, whatever it looks like. Most of all, we need our relationships. It’s not reasonable anymore to think you can go it alone. You’ll need your team, your friends, your trusted advisors, and they need you, too. It’s a great time to invest in those relationships. We succeed together.